Thursday, December 8, 2011

Turkey Soup with Escarole

Any time you roast a whole bird of any type, saving the carcass and using it to make soup is almost mandatory. Soup-making is an easy way to get the most out of the parts of the bird that would otherwise end up in the trash. Why waste the bony parts when you can easily, and inexpensively turn it into a complete meal. I make my turkey soup different every time- last time, I added cabbage to make it more interesting- this time around I use escarole - a mildly bitter green related to endive, transforming this soup into something similar to a classic Italian Wedding soup.

The base of any soup starts with the stock, and a good stock starts with bones- or a whole turkey carcass with a ton of meat scraps still attached to it. Put the carcass in your largest pot, and add enough water to cover it. Add salt and pepper, then a variety of vegetables- I used a red onion, a white onion, and a little leek for starters- then reached for the root vegetables- two carrots sliced into rounds, a parsnip and a turnip chopped into bite sized pieces. Chop up a rib or two of celery, and add in a few fresh herbs- I kept it simple and rough chopped a handful of parsley and dill. Set the pot over a low heat and let it simmer for as long as possible- I usually start a big soup like this mid-morning, and expect to have it ready for dinner. Cook it low and slow, so all of the collagen, fat, and connective tissues in the carcass render out into the broth.

After simmering for several hours, I'll carefully remove the carcass with a slotted spoon, and do what I can to fish out any stray bones. There will still probably be a good amount of meat on the carcass, so I'll pull off what I can, chop it up into bits, and toss it back in the soup with the vegetables. If you plan on adding anything like rice or some pasta, this is the time to do it. This time, though, I'm going to simply add a few greens to the soup, and serve a few biscuits on the side.

For my greens, I'm going to use escarole. Escarole is in the lettuce family, but is closely related to endive or chicory. It has a bitter flavor- but is much more mild than endive or even radicchio. It works well in salads and is commonly found in meat-based soups because of how well it complements meat. It is frequently used in "Italian Wedding" soup - which gets its name a mis-translation of the term "minestra maritata" (married soup) which is a reference to marrying the flavor of a meat with a green leafy vegetable.

The escarole needs to cook down a bit, but not all that much- so about thirty to forty minutes before dinner time, I'll take a head of escarole and rough chop it into broad strips, then drop them in the hot soup. This should give about enough time to wilt the greens and make them translucent. Serve your soup with warm biscuits or fresh crusty bread as a side. While it isn't a true Italian Wedding soup, it still marries the flavor of the turkey with the mildly bitter escarole and the earthy root vegetables in a way that just screams comfort.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN Brother! Nothing like a good turkey stock to make a heart warming soup! Looks good!